School Officials Pleased with Watertown’s Results in First Year of New State Test

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The scores for the new MCAS exam are out, and the results pleased Watertown Public School officials. 

The Massachusetts Accountability System uses a different test, has different scores and different measures for how a school or district fared, said Watertown Superintendent Dede Galdston. She said, however, that the district fared well on the first year of the new test.

“We are very pleased with our results,” Galdston said at Monday’s School Committee meeting. “Three (of five) schools met or exceeded the goals set by the state and one met it in some areas.”

Cunniff and Lowell elementary schools and Watertown High School fell into the “not requiring assistance or intervention,” while Hosmer Elementary and Watertown Middle School fell into the “requiring assistance or intervention category, according to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Eduction (DESE) report.

A report on the results for elementary schools will be presented at the Oct. 22 School Committee meeting, Galdston said, and at the Nov. 19 meeting the middle and high school results will be examined. On Tuesday, she focused on the district as a whole.

The new categories for how a school or district fared, from highest to lowest, are Meeting Targets and Partially Meeting Targets. Schools can also be a School of Recognition for having high achievement, significant improvement or high growth. Schools in that Require assistance or intervention can either be in the Broad/Comprehensive Support group or Focused/Targeted Support. The later is for schools in the lowest 10 percentile, have low graduation rates, which have low performing subgroups, or low participation rates.

To be in the Meeting Targets, a school or district must score 75-100 points. Watertown’s overall score for the 2018 Massachusetts Accountability System test is 73.

“At 73 percent we are partially meeting the targets. We need 75 percent (to be meeting targets),” Galdston said. “We are pretty close to meeting the target.”

New Test

Some of the changes in the new system are that results are grouped by High School and Non-High School students, rather than by elementary and secondary schools.

The scores are based on a number of factors.

Non-High School scores are based on (with the percent the score is weighted):

Achievement on English Language Arts (ELA), math and science (60 percent)

Student Growth in ELA and math (20 percent)

English Language Proficiency, and (10 percent)

Additional Indicators — chronic absenteeism (10 percent)

Targets for High School students are based on:

Achievement on English Language Arts (ELA), math and science (40 percent)

High School Completion, including four-year cohort graduation rate, extended engagement rate (five-year cohort graduation rate and percent of the cohort still enrolled), and annual drop out rate (20 percent)

Student Growth in ELA and math (20 percent)

English Language Proficiency, and (10 percent)

Additional Indicators — chronic absenteeism, and advanced coursework completion (10 percent)

In the High School results, Watertown received an overall score of 81 percent while the Non-High School grades got an overall score of 69 percent. To figure out the district score, the state weighs the high school score by 30 percent and non-high school 70 percent.

The new Accountability System looks differently at the “at risk” students. The state looks at the bottom 25 percent of students on the test, called Lowest Performing Students, instead of looking at those who are “at risk”: Title I (qualify for the Federal Free or Reduced Lunch program), who are not native English speakers (English Language Learners) and in special education.

Each category gets a score, and there are scores for High School and Non-High School, and within those groups for All Students and for Lowest Performing Students. Each category is scored from 0-4, with the scores designated as: 0 – declined, 1 – no change, 2 – improved, 3 – met target, and 4 – exceeded target.

Watertown’s Results

Watertown scored 3 or 4 in most of the areas. It received a 0 on the math achievement for All Students in Non-High School, as well as for Advanced Coursework Completion for All Students in High School.

There were no 1s and the district got 2s in multiple areas, including: English Language Growth for both High School – All Students and High School – Lowest Performing Students; Math Growth in both Non-High School – Lowest Performing Students and High School – Lowest Performing Students; and for Extended Engagement Rate for High School – All Students.

Galdston credits the results to the efforts made last year, particularly focusing on teaching literacy in the elementary school level. Teachers have worked on using common assessments and analyzing the results to see how their students are doing and, in turn, how their teaching strategies are working.

“The growth at the elementary level is the result of a great deal of work by a lot of people,” Galdston said. “It is unusual to see that level of growth. Teachers, particularly at the elementary level may feel a lot has been thrown at them, but in a couple of years it will seem routine.”

School officials have already started to look at ares where students struggled on the tests, said Theresa McGuinness, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching, Learning & Assessment.

“(For instance) looking at third-grade math, the biggest challenge was not being able to tell time,” McGuinness said. “We realized that instruction was given after the MCAS was given, so scores were up in fractions but not in telling time.”

School Committee Chairman John Portz noted that score for the Lowest Performing Students in High School was 88 percent, while the High Needs was at 50 percent. McGuinness noted that students in their first or second year of English Language Learning program were not included in the Lowest Performing Students, but were included in the calculation for High Needs.

See Watertown’s Accountability Data report by clicking here:

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